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Giants Among Us: Morning Minutes, June 3, 2016

By now, I am sure you are tired of hearing about the incredible week I’ve experienced in 219. Bad news. I am not done. Good news. The week is over.  So, then, I will quit gushing about my kids after today. Promise…well, unless something happens today that I just have to share tomorrow.

This story began a long time ago and has a long backstory. As such, I will skip most of the prologue and jump into the action, the drama that took place as Kali (short for Akourakali) began high school two years ago. In a rare turn of events, I ended up with a section of ninth-grade language arts, and Kali, whose sister was a former student (there’s the long backstory) ended up in my class. He may, if memory serves, even have transferred in, so he could be in my class. I was happy to have him, and he was happy to have me, and I believe he and I both hoped to develop as strong a relationship as I had had with his sister.

Well, after the first trimester, though I found the kids lovely, I discovered that I really didn’t love the curriculum, and when an opportunity to swap my LA 9 for an LA 11 came up, I took it. Of course, I waited till the last minute to tell my lovelies, offering some official sounding reason for why the administration needed me to teach eleventh grade. But, in short–in truth–I lied. The kids groaned. I was flattered. I told them that I would get them the next year in tenth grade. They understood. We moved on. Well, everyone, but Kali. He stayed after. He was pissed. He called me out.

“So, you’re abandoning us?”

I tried to level with him, rationalizing my decision, thinking that the truth would set us both free. But, in the end, the truth hurt. And Kali, vowed not to talk to me for the rest of the year.  And he kept his vow, minus the few times I tried to engage him in the hall over the year, and he reminded me that I had abandoned him, and he wanted nothing to do with me. Truth’s hurt, I learned, can cut both ways.

Flash forward to this year. In another unanticipated turn of events, I ended up with four sections of LA 10 Honors. The kids, whom I had told could be in my LA 10 class this year, would now have to take honors if that were to happen. A few did; most didn’t. Kali, after the first week transferred in. Surprised but elated–we could now patch things up, I welcomed him, asking him if he was sure about his choice. And he told me he wasn’t sure because he didn’t trust that I wouldn’t abandon him again. Ouch.

So, finally, we began our–full–year together, a year that has been a challenge on many levels. For me, it was a challenge to undo the damage in our relationship. For Kali, the class itself was a challenge as he struggled to keep up with the work, resulting, even, in our having a discussion at semester as to whether or not he should transfer into my one section of regular LA 10. We decided he should stay, and now, due to recent events, we know we made the right decision.

First, though I don’t think I am supposed to share this with the public yet, Kali scored a 4 on the state assessment (the highest level). I was so proud of him and so excited to share his success with him. It was not the last time I would wonder, “Who is this kid?”

Yesterday. Dragging his feet, Kali, made his way to the podium. I had asked him to go earlier in the week, but he hemmed and hawed, and finally, yesterday, he had no choice. He had to go.

The kids have to indicate a target time to me at the beginning of their speeches (They have to be within 15 seconds, short or long to get full points. It makes them practice). Kali, coolly, maybe even confidently, called out 2:20. Good. Short, I thought privately. Better for him and us if he’s not prepared. But Kali wasn’t just prepared; he was brilliant.

In 2:24, the sleeping giant woke and rocked our worlds, calling out the injustice, the fraud in humanity’s empty claim that all lives matter, shedding light on the atrocities that occur daily around the world that never get our attention, that should get our attention if all lives matter. When he finished, we sat in stunned silence, but only for a moment as I shouted emphatically, “WHO ARE YOU?” I continued, telling him I was so pissed at him that I wanted to punch him. For how dare he hide on me, on us, on himself all year long. “WHO ARE YOU, YOUNG MAN?” I shouted again. “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”

Kali is a big kid. Big. But yesterday I truly discovered the size of this young man. He is a giant. And his performance yesterday served as a humble reminder to me that there is a giant in each kid. But we let their giants sleep. We have to wake the giants. Giants aren’t meant to sleep. Giants are meant to stomp around and make some noise.

As he handed me his speech, I grabbed him and gave the giant a hug, a hug that I had needed for a long time. Later, he stopped by because he’d heard that I had been talking about him to my other classes. “You proud of me, Sy?” Yeah, Kali, I am proud of you, immensely proud of you.

Happy Friday, all.




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